Stellantis CEO says there’s still life in Waymo’s self-driving pickup truck plan

Stellantis CEO says there’s still life in Waymo’s self-driving pickup truck plan

Stellantis, the automaker that owns 14 brands including Chrysler, Jeep and Ram, and self-driving car technology company Waymo are not only still working together, the companies are expanding their partnership, CEO Carlos Tavares told TechCrunch in a recent interview. .

This “enhanced” partnership will focus on Ram’s self-driving pickup trucks, a goal that was first announced in 2020 and promptly faded from the public eye. Discussions about this “improved” plan have focused, in part, on the solution to driverless delivery: how does the package get from the car to the customer?

“When you get to your destination, how do you get the package out of the car?” Tavares said in a wide-ranging interview. “This has been a point of discussion that does not seem to be easy to resolve and we are now refining our engagement plan to take that into account.”

“At the same time, we understand their needs and there are many things we can do for them in terms of engineering,” he said, adding that it was too early to share details. “But I would say that the partnership with Waymo is getting deeper. And I think, it’s more exciting.”

Tavares played coy on what important, where and when details. But he added that he hoped to be able to participate more “probably by the summer.”

A Waymo spokesperson confirmed that the company continues to look for ways to strengthen its relationship with Stellantis, but did not share any other details or if progress had been made.

Tavares’ comments indicate that the company is more than eager to revive the program
which seemed to falter as many other auto-OEM partnerships have in the past two years.

Even if the two companies make a broader agreement, there is still a big challenge to implement it.

Waymo, which is owned by Google parent company Alphabet, does not currently operate a commercial delivery service using its self-driving cars. Last summer, it shut down its self-driving truck initiative, Waymo Via, to put all its resources into expanding the robotaxi service.

In May 2023, Waymo and Uber agreed to a multi-year strategic partnership to allow Uber users to hail a driverless car through an app in Phoenix. The plan included a future plan to include delivery through Uber Eats, but as of today, it has not launched, according to a Waymo spokesperson.

The two companies have been partners since 2016 when an agreement was reached to supply Waymo with thousands of special Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans that would be the first self-driving cars to be launched.

Under the deal, Fiat Chrysler – now known as Stellantis – would handle manufacturing and supply Waymo with minivans designed for autonomous driving.

Waymo never came close to the 62,000 minivan order it accepted in 2018 as part of an expanded partnership with Fiat Chrysler. Hundreds, if not thousands, of small cars were delivered to Waymo. But the minicar became an integral part of its business plan and over its lifetime the ship provided tens of thousands of rides to the public, according to the company. (Waymo has never disclosed detailed figures for its small fleet other than that its total global fleet is about 700 vehicles.)

Waymo ended the Chrysler Pacifica program in May 2023. Today, its robotaxi service uses Jaguar I-Pace electric cars.